I Changed My Style For A Dude, And I’m Okay With That

Significantly different!

By this point, I’d realized Bad College Boyfriend was, well, bad, and excised him from my life. But there was a problem: I liked the new way I looked. I was 22; I didn’t want to be a mall Goth anymore. I no longer walked around picturing myself the plucky protagonist of some splendid punk-torian romance. My favorite music was no longer Marilyn Manson and Mindless Self Indulgence, but Sonic Youth and Sleater-Kinney. I’d sort of decided I wanted to be a journalist, and journalists need to blend in a little. One might argue I traded one uniform for another, and one might be right. But the way I looked fit with my (slightly) more grown-up personality, and for the first time, I was starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. And it took me way less time to get dressed!

Was it shitty that I changed as the result of a controlling relationship? Of course it was. As a feminist, I’ve wrestled with this idea quite a bit. Maybe I would’ve made those changes anyway, but it would’ve been better if they’d been my own idea. But I’ve since come to the realization that just because a relationship was ultimately unhealthy, doesn’t mean you can’t salvage some good things from it. In fact, that’s all the more reason to. Sure, BCB was a terrible boyfriend in many ways, but he also introduced me to some things that I loved, and still love to this day. He helped me stop acting all weird and fake (I have very different opinions on this than Jennifer!) out of nervousness in social situations. And he believed in me as a writer before I believed in myself. Some of these were changes I’d been needing to make, but just didn’t know how to. And he taught me a lot about what I do and don’t want, lessons I’ve applied to other relationships since then. For all of those things, I am grateful.

So yeah, you probably shouldn’t change the way you dress for a dude. But if you happen to meet someone at a turning point in your life, and they coerce you into making some changes you end up liking, there’s nothing wrong with keeping those changes long after the relationship is over. You know, like My Fair Lady, if Eliza Doolittle had managed to leave Henry Higgins at the end. Am I the only one who really wanted her to?

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    • Lauren

      No, I always want Eliza to leave Henry at the end.

    • Eileen

      Didn’t they split up in the play?

      And yeah, whatever. I picked up some new interests because of boys I crushed on in high school. They were their interests then, but they’re mine now, and that’s what matters.

    • Lastango

      I hadn’t heard of whimpsters before, but similar types have been around since at least the beatniks. (IMO that’s who the whimpsters are stealing from stylistically.) The next bunch figured out the antiwar movement was full of chicks. You can see one of these types in action in “Animal House” — he’s sitting on the stairs with a guitar hustling froshmeat.

      Later generations of these punks started working the save-the-earth beat, where there is no end of young women who are natural joiners, want to be popular, and respond to well superficial rhetorical cues about anything feelgood.

      These days, I gather they’re starting to pop up in the Women’s Studies and the Gender Studies classes. Slick operators that they are, I’ll wager they talk the talk better than most of their targets. It’s all about respect and empowerment, yaknow. He’s there for your success, and because he’s secure in his New Masculinity he doesn’t mind when you take the lead. He’d jump at the chance to be a stay-at-home dad if you wanted him to, proving he’s left the patriarchy far behind. If he’s really, really good he might even subtly change his style to suit yours. He’s just a comfy to be around as your girlfriends. What a guy! (To throw him for a loop, wear the pearl earrings. He has no idea what to do around a grownup.)

      Something from the seventies:

      They call him the rapper
      Rap, rap, rap you know what he’s after.”

      • Jackie

        Yes! You have it so spot on about the guys in the Women/Gender studies classes. If you pay close enough attention you can always pick them out in class.

      • Phil

        I actually met Alan Ginsberg in 1982 in Colorado; I had no desire to meet him, but, someone I was talking with got all enthusiastic, and said your about to meet Alan Ginsberg.

        I could have cared less if If I met or not….I was immediately (at that time) struck….with the thought…. of this icon of the 60s, was obviously manufactured by the media back then; because, he would have been to wimpish, to be of any use to to the actual people involved in the anti-Vietnam war movement.

        I know this, because I was then, and am now a liberal pacifist.

        Believe me, I know, because the pacifists back then used the media, in a powerful iconic way, much more then, they do now…. to get a point of view across.

    • Sarah

      I know this is off topic, but, you rocked both of those looks, beautiful! Love, Mom.

    • Kj

      I think you have to see it as him being the catalyst in a process that would have happened on its own – just more slowly – and that’s ok, and perfectly feminist as far as I’m concerned. Love will EAT YOUR SOUL, and it’s very hard to fight, but once bad love is over you are a little more in tune with yourself, I think.

    • kittnen

      Somehow I have a feeling you would have made those changes anyways. I have been with the same person since I was 17, and I look nothing like I did when we first got together. But our relationship is completely healthy, we got married 2 years ago we couldn’t be happier. He has never once told me how I should dress, unless I asked his opinion. (“Does this outfit make me look like an elementary school teacher?” “Yes, yes it does.”) Something about growing up makes you stop dressing like everyone is looking at you.

    • Sarah Anne

      I had a very similar experience and I do not think you are wrong in liking the changes you made because of someone else. Just because those changes were almost, if not entirely, pushed on you doesn’t mean you should hate them. Its ok to like those changes if YOU chose :)


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